Thursday, July 21, 2016

"There is no difference between computer art and human art"

This is the title of an Aeon piece by Oliver Roeder, a senior writer for ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight site. His basic argument is that since algorithms are created by humans, the art they generate is human art, too. This could well be a joke, but perhaps isn’t – which would be symptomatic in itself. My first reaction was to say there is a fundamental difference between real art and that produced by an algorithm (no matter how much “creativity” has gone into it). One requires, and evokes, a powerful emotional response; the other doesn’t. On second thought, artists, writers, composers, and others started to work on erasing this difference over a century ago. The cultured elite was initially abhorred, but quickly lost taste in representational art,  rhymed poetry, traditional narrative, tonal music, and the like – and embraced most forms of aesthetically neutral (or worse) art, poetry/writing, music, architecture, etc. This trend has recently been reinforced by the entry of tech billionaites into the prestigious art market. So perhaps we have reached the point where there is no meaningful difference between human and algorithmic artistic output.